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Simcoe, John Graves

SIMCOE, JOHN GRAVES (1752-1806), British soldier and first lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, was born at Cotterstock, Northumberland, England, on the 25th of February 1752. His father, John Simcoe, who was a captain in the Royal Navy, died in 1759, and his only brother was drowned in early youth. During Simcoe's childhood the family removed to Exeter. He was sent to Eton at the age of fourteen, and three years later entered Merton College, Oxford. After two years of college life, he became ensign in the 35th regiment, first seeing active service at Boston in 1775, and remaining in America during the greater part of the Revolutionary War. In 1776 he secured command of the Queen's Rangers with the rank of major. His military career in America ended with the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown (Oct. 19, 1781). He returned to England on parole, and for the next ten years divided his time between London and his family estate in Devon. In December 1782 he married Elizabeth Posthuma, only child of Colonel Thomas Gwillim of Old Court, Herefordshire. In 1790 he was elected member of parliament for St Mawes in Cornwall, and at the close of his first session was appointed lieutenant-governor of the new province of Upper Canada created under the Constitutional Act of 1791. He reached Kingston, Upper Canada, on the 1st of July 1792. There the first council was assembled, the government of the new province proclaimed, and the oaths of office taken. Immediately afterwards preparations were made for the election of the first house of assembly, which opened at Newark near the mouth of the Niagara river, on the 17th of September 1792. Simcoe's ideas of colonial government were dominated by military and aristocratic conceptions quite unsuited to the pioneer conditions of Upper Canada. Thus, while his administration was characterized by the most disinterested devotion to what he conceived to be for the best interests of the province, it was rendered ineffective by the impracticable character of his projects and the friction which developed between himself and Lord Dorchester, the governorgeneral. He left Canada in September 1 796, and was immediately afterwards sent on a mission to San Domingo, from which, however, he returned in a few months on account of ill-health. In October 1798 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenantgeneral, and appointed colonel of the 22nd foot. During 1800-1801 he was in command at Plymouth. Desiring more active service, he was designated commander-in-chief for India to succeed Lord Lake, but before taking the appointment his health broke and he died at Exeter on the 26th of October 1806.

See D. C. Scott, John Graves Simcoe (1905).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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